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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

     

Part II: Primitive Cultures: The Problem of Their Historical Origin

Chapter 2

Climax at the Beginning

     THE PURPOSE of this chapter is to establish two points. First, in that area of the world from which all existing civilizations have derived their inspiration and which might, therefore, properly be called the Cultural Cradle of Mankind, the time lapse from the establishment of the earliest human settlements to the building of the first cities was remarkably short. Secondly, when new techniques and arts and skills make their first appearance they are frequently at the peak of their achievement and the course of their subsequent development is one of decline, not evolution.
     Let me elaborate these two points somewhat. First, the rapidity with which civilization developed after the Flood, for which there is archaeological evidence, must have been paralleled by a similar rapidity of development from Adam to Noah. During this earlier period although archaeological evidence is still lacking, there were special circumstances which account for the acceleration and these will be discussed in the final chapter. My own impression is that when the Flood came, mankind had not spread very far from the traditional "home" of the race. With the destruction of all that preceded except for those elements of that culture which were carried over the Flood by Noah and his sons, a new start was made. But if an analogy may be used, the new beginning did not represent the first faltering paces of a child but rather the steps of an adult who has recently emerged from an operation intended to remove a sickness which could only have rendered further progress in civilization disastrous. It is this circumstance which I believe accounts for the remarkably rapid transition from Sialk and other Iranian Highland Plateau settlements to the advanced cultures of Elam, the Indus Valley, Mesopotamia Palestine, and Egypt.
     Secondly, with respect to the evidence for cultural degeneration it must first of all be admitted that cultural progress does undoubtedly

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take place. Within the past 75 years, so many advances have been made in the means of communication and travel, in medicine and in our control of the environment in general, that it would be foolish to deny it. Such advances have not all been gain, but fundamentally man's heart, and not his head, has been the cause of this. But we have been so bombarded with the concept of evolutionary progress that the reverse process has been almost overlooked. Hence in the chapters which follow the emphasis is upon degeneration, not because we wish to deny a general trend in the opposite direction, but rather because such emphasis is necessary to produce a balanced view of history. The almost complete occupation by earlier Christian scholars with the evidence for degeneration led to a reaction which prepared the way for an evolutionary philosophy, which was accepted not merely with openness but with relief and unbounded optimism. Perhaps it is time to take a fresh look at the situation.
     Although to many people diagrams are a hindrance rather than a help, for the few who find them illuminating the two graphs (Figure 3) have been drawn to summarize the substance of the previous paragraphs.
Graph I in Figure 3 is intended to represent the currently accepted view of things. The first man started at an animal level (A) but with something which enabled him gradually to elevate himself until he reached (B) after an interval of perhaps 500,000 years. This point marks what has been called by some archaeologists and prehistorians the Neolithic Revolution.
(43) It is essentially the time at which man is believed to have established the first permanent settlements by achieving the domestication of some animals and cereals, thus becoming a food producer for the first time. Previously man had been a nomadic hunter. From this point on a steady cultural evolution took place, occupying perhaps 10,000 years up to the present time.
     In Graph II of Figure 3 we have an entirely different kind of picture, although the end result is much the same. At (G) we have the creation of Adam already removed far above the animal level. He began with certain instructions from his Creator, certainly in language which lies at the root of culture, and perhaps in the making of clothes and in the matter of worship. These legacies and probably others were his from the very first and (G) starts, therefore, clearly above the animal line. From there to (H) which marks the time of the Flood was a very rapid rise. The time interval is a matter of a very few thousand years, contrasting sharply with the length of the line AB in Graph I.

43. I think the originator of this term was V. Gordon Childe. He uses it, for example, in his Man Makes Himself, Watts, London, 1948, Chap.5, pp.66 following.

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At H, much of the cumulative technology of the pre-Flood world was lost: but much remained for a fresh start. This is shown by beginning the next curve a little distance down from H, at K.
     From K to J there is a steady rise but it is not a smooth curve. It is made up rather of a series of sharp rises followed by a collapse, each new rise starting at some point on the falling line of the previous arc. This is the picture which history gives us: it is the pattern of events which was first seen clearly by Vico
(44) and has subsequently intrigued most philosophers of history including Toynbee, (45) Spengler (46) and others. (47) Each civilization seems to have had a birth followed by a rapid development to a Golden Age and then a slow decline. Somewhere in the declining period, another culture takes over and raises the cumulative thread of cultural development to a slightly higher level than before, only to pass into a subsequent descendancy like all its predecessors. In a sense there is evolution, but it carries with it the inevitable consequence of leaving behind strewn about the world the decadent remnants of each civilization -- some of which continued their decline until rediscovered centuries later by the White Man as he set forth to dominate what he had previously thought were the uninhabited regions of the world. Such backward peoples as he found everywhere in marginal areas were not representatives of prehistoric man striving to elevate themselves to a higher cultural level, but the sad reminders of the fact that no civilization however accomplished it may be, has the power within itself to maintain itself against ultimate decay. In some instances the process of decay carried man culturally so low that he approached nearer than ever before to the animal line. It is a frightening thought, but one that must be faced, that isolated individuals found now and then as feral children may even have crossed this line also. (48) History, far from being characterized

44. Giovanni, Battista Vico (1668-1744) was an Italian philosopher whose chief work was published in France by Michelet in 1827 under the title Principes de la Philosophie d'Histoire.
45. Toynbee, Arnold, A Study of History, Oxford University Press, 1946-1957, in which the rise and fall of 19 civilizations is presented in such a way as to suggest that history repeats itself according to what is almost a spiritual law. Karl Marx believed the determining factor was an economic one, Ellsworth Huntingdon that it was a climatic one.
46. Spengler, Oswald, Decline of the West, Allen and Unwin, London, 1926.
47. For a discussion of Vico's views see R. G. Collingwood, "Oswald Spengler and the Theory of Historical Cycles," Antiquity, Sept., 1927, pp.311.325; and also "The Theory of Historical Cycles," Dec., 1927, pp.435-446.  A. L. Kroeber has several worthwhile contributions on the subject of Cultural Determinism and Historical Cycles. These deterministic trends in culture he refers to as the "superorganic," American Anthropologist, vol.19, 1917, p.162-213, This concept was elaborated in many of his subsequent works.
48. There are possibly four or five fairly well authenticated cases in comparatively recent times. Reference is made to these by Susanne Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, Mentor Books, New York, 1952, p.87. Also in the works of Ernst Cassirer: see "Who Taught Adam to Speak?" Part VI in Genesis and Early Man, vol.2 in The Doorway Papers Series.

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by progress from savage to barbarian to civilized, is in fact more frequently characterized by regression from civilized to barbaric (albeit, refined at times) to savage.
     In these two graphs, therefore, we have two contrasting views of man's history, the one presenting a long, slow, unbroken climb from animal almost to superman: the other showing the effect of three great facts, namely, that man was created with a vast superiority over the animals; secondly, that his ingenuity quickly proved too dangerous and had to be curbed by the Flood; and thirdly, that what ingenuity he still retains is constantly subject to the decaying effects of sin so that his great achievements are never lasting although their cumulative effect gives the impression of continuous upward progress.
     The picture of the growth of civilization based upon prehistoric research in Europe is one of a vastly extended and very gradual progress from crude stone implements, the absence of cereals or domesticated animals, no pottery and no established settlements -- to more refined stone and metal tools and weapons, pottery, cereals, domestic animals, and more or less permanent settlements. This process is said to have taken 500,000 years.
     By contrast, as already noted, archaeology has revealed in the Middle East -- but not elsewhere -- a tendency for people to begin almost immediately to congregate in larger and larger numbers, at first in camps (at M'lefaat), soon after in villages (Jarmo, Sialk, Tell Halaf, etc.), then towns (Susa, Jericho, etc.), and then cities (Al Ubeid, and in the Indus Valley, and Egypt), all of this taking place in a matter of centuries.
     The difference in pattern between Europe and the Middle East is significant, for as it has been noted by several authorities,
(49) the "city-idea" is not an Indo-European one but originated with the non-Indo-European peoples. In fact, neither Indo-Europeans nor Semites had a word specifically for "city," in both cases using a borrowed term. (50)
     The English word "borough" and its older form "burg" are both derived from a more ancient root appearing in classical antiquity in the form "perg-" (as in Pergamos, for example) which is also reflected in the Greek word for "tower," namely, purgos. In fact, our words

49. See on this Stuart Piggott, Prehistoric India, Penguin Books, Eng., 1950, p.263; H. J. Fleure, The Races of Mankind, Benn, London, 1930, p.68; A. H. Sayce, "The Aryan Problem," Antiquity, June, 1927, p.214.
50. See Robert Eisler, "Loan Words in Semitic Languages Meaning 'Town,'" Antiquity, Dec., 1939, pp.449 ff.

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"town" and "tower," being derived from the same root, indicate the association between the two ideas. This association is a very ancient one and is found in the case of Babel, in Genesis 11:4. The root form "perg" has been carefully traced by Eisler to the more ancient word "uruk," the name of a very famous early city. This name in turn is found in Cuneiform in an alternative form "unuk." It is a curious thing that while the names of all cities in Cuneiform are identified as cities by the use of a small determinative sign preceding the name, unuk is a sole exception. There must be a very good reason for this, and I suggest the reason is to be found in Genesis 4:17. Cain, representing only the second generation of Homo sapiens, is said to have built the first city and to have named it after his son Enoch. Being the first city, its name became virtually synonymous with the concept "city" and when after the Flood a new Unuk was built it never seemed necessary to identify it with a special determinative sign. It was not altogether unlike the way in which local people in the country will speak of going "to town" without feeling it necessary to be more specific. Everyone knows which town they mean.
     The purpose of introducing this point here is that it indicates, I think, that when Noah and his family began to re-populate the Middle East it was only to be expected that they would proceed within a very short time to the re-establishment of villages or towns, since city life had been normal to man from the time of Cain. People who have always lived in the country and never known urban life do not automatically proceed to assemble themselves into large aggregations. It is not, therefore, a "natural" thing that cities should have appeared so quickly, but they resulted from the circumstances in which the fresh start was being made, and this is evidence, indeed, in favour of the record of events in the early chapters of Genesis. It is a remarkable testimony of the truth of what might otherwise be considered a very innocent remark in Genesis 4:17, which being thus shown to be fact reveals how short the time interval really was between the appearance of the first man and the building of the first city. This is very different, surely, from the picture presented to us in most textbooks of prehistory which, of course, are based upon an examination of the evidence in Europe. Perhaps what took place in Europe must be accounted for in some entirely different way. This is the subject, in part, of Chapter 3. In the meantime we may say with a measure of certainty that the rapidity with which civilization developed in the Middle East as revealed by archaeology accords remarkably well with what is stated in Genesis but is in almost complete contradiction with what one ought to expect if human evolution were a fact.

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     But we may go even further and say that not only did civilization appear suddenly, but in many ways its earliest stages of development tended to be its finest. One of the surprises of early archaeology in the Middle East was the discovery that in the very area in which man was supposed to have begun what Crawford has termed "the conquest of culture," (51) there was no truly primitive stage even in such sites as Sialk and Jarmo, and in the very lowest levels at Jericho and Tell Halaf there is evidence of the rudiments of civilized life though naturally at a simple level. But the domestication of animals, the growing of wheat, and skill in the manufacture of weapons and tools is there at the outset. Long antecedent periods of development from an entirely nomadic food-gathering kind of life to the community life of these early settlements is, of course, assumed but is still unsupported by evidence. A. H. Sayce in 1899, in spite of the fact that he knew nothing of the subsequent finds in the Iranian Plateau to the north of Assyria, was still essentially correct when he said, (52)

     The history of the ancient East contains no record of the development of culture out of savagery. It tells us indeed of degeneracy and decay in time, but it knows of no period when civilization began. As far as archaeology can teach us the builders of the Babylonian cities, the inventors of the cuneiform characters had behind them no barbarous past.

     When these words were penned, it was still confidently asserted by others that further excavation would change the picture, and that in the end it would become apparent that this great cultural surge which marked the beginning of the truly historical period had a perfectly "normal" (by which was meant evolutionary) development from a primitive stage such as marginal groups possess. For this development it was necessary to postulate thousands of years, for in other areas where Stone Ages were known, progress from the lowest levels to a high state of civilization was felt to have taken literally hundreds of thousands of years. On the other hand, while such sites as Jarmo and others do reveal an initially simple stage, the time taken to reach a zenith of cultural achievement can be measured in centuries, not millennia, much less hundreds of thousands of years, evidently something different was taking place at the center.
     Let us deal with areas, one at a time, and see what the authorities have to say. Since Egypt is so familiar to us all (but not because of any priority in time), let us begin with a review of the evidence

51. Crawford, M. D. C., The Conquest of Culture, Fairchild, New York, 1948, xii and 449 pp., index. A very useful summary of technical achievements, but without documentation.
52. Sayce, A. H., Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, London, 1899, p.270.

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from the valley of the Nile. P. J. Wiseman said in this connection, (53)

     No more surprising fact has been discovered by recent excavation than the suddenness with which civilization appeared in the world. Instead of the infinitely slow development anticipated, it has become obvious that art, and we may say science, suddenly burst upon the world. For instance, H. G. Wells acknowledged that the oldest stone building known to the world is the Sakkara Pyramid. Yet as Dr. Breasted pointed out, "From the earliest piece of stone masonry to the construction of the Great Pyramid less than a century and a half elapsed."
     Writing of this Pyramid, Sir Flinders Petrie stated that "the accuracy of construction is evidence of high purpose and great capability and training. In the earliest pyramid the precision of the whole mass is such that the error would be exceeded by that of a metal measure on a mild or a cold day: the error of leveling is less than can be seen with the naked eye. The conclusion seems inevitable that 3000 B.C. was the heyday of Egyptian art."
     Dr. Hall in referring to this sudden development says, "It is easy to say that this remarkable outburst of architectural capacity must argue a long previous apprenticeship and period of development: but in this case we have not got this long period."
     In the face of these facts the slow progress of early man is a doubtful assumption, and the idea that an infinitely prolonged period elapsed before civilization appeared cannot be maintained.

     G. A. Reisner says that the quality of "the art of the Old Kingdom of Egypt . . . has rarely been reached by the art of any other period or region: but authentic specimens are not common, and popular judgment is usually formed by inferior examples of later ages." (54)

     Vere Gordon Childe in speaking of early Egyptian pottery remarked: (55)

     The pottery vessels especially those designed for funerary use, exhibit a perfection of technique never excelled in the Nile Valley. The finer ware is extremely thin, and is decorated all over by burnishing before firing, perhaps with a blunt-toothed comb, to produce an exquisite rippled effect that must be seen to be appreciated.

     Walter Emery, speaking of the tombs of the first Pharaohs, remarked: (56)

     One great tomb after another was cleared (from 1935 to the end of World War II) each showing that civilization during the period of the First Dynasty was far more advanced than we had supposed . . . showing that a highly developed culture existed in Egypt by 3000 B.C. . . .

53. Wiseman, P. J., New Discoveries in Babylon About Genesis, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, 2nd edition, revised, undated, pp.28, 31, 33.
54. Reisner, G. A., The History of the Giza Necropolis, reviewed in Antiquity, Mar., 1938, p.104.
55. Childe, Vere Gordon, New Light on the Most Ancient East, Kegan Paul, London, 1935, p.67.
56. Emery, Walter B., "The Tombs of the First Pharaohs," Scientific American, July, 1957, pp.107, 112, 116.

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     The scattered contents of their tombs show that they had a well developed written language, a knowledge of the preparation of papyrus, and a great talent for the manufacture of stone vessels, to which they brought a beauty of design that is not excelled today. They also made an almost unlimited range of stone and copper tools, from saws to the finest needles. Their decorative objects of wood, ivory, and gold are masterly, and their manufacture of leather, textiles, and rope was of a high standard. Above all they had great artistic ability.
     This advanced civilization appears suddenly in the early years of the third millennium B.C.; it seems to have little or no background in the Nile Valley. . . .
     The monumental architecture of the First Dynasty has been compared to that of the Jamdet Nasr period in Mesopotamia, and I think the similarity is beyond dispute.

     This Jamdet Nasr period is dated around 3500 B.C. by Meek, (57) being the last of four pre-Dynastic periods in Mesopotamia of which the first was the Al Ubeid period to which reference is made subsequently.
     R. E. Bewberry pointed out that "the essentials of the Egyptian system of writing were fully developed at the beginning of the first dynasty. It must have been the growth of many antecedent ages, yet not a trace of the early stages of its evolution have been found on Egyptian soil."
(58) Vere Gordon Childe put it this way: (59)

     On the Nile and in Mesopotamia the clear light of written history illumines our path for fully fifty centuries, and looking down that vista we already descry at its farther end ordered government, urban life, writing, and conscious art. The greatest moments -- that revolution when man ceased to be a parasite . . . have passed before the curtain rises.

     W. J. Perry, quoting de Morgan, (60) said, "What appears at a very early date in Egypt is perfection of technique. The Egyptian appears, from the time of the earliest Pharaohs, as a patient, careful workman, his mind like his hand possesses an incomparable precision . . . a mastery that has never been surpassed in any country."
     Of course, archaeologists have turned up some ancient remains which seem to be more simple and more like the Paleolithic remains of Europe, yet even in these sites pottery is found, and of this pottery W. E. Taylor of the University of Toronto assured us that "crude as it may appear it was in actual workmanship never excelled. The flint tools chipped and ground so very carefully are the finest that have ever been found anywhere!"
(61) It may be strange to refer to their  

57. Meek, T. J., "Magic Spades in Mesopotamia," University of Toronto Quarterly, vol.7, no.2, Jan., 1938, p.235 237.
58. Bewberry, R. E., quoted by C. Urquhart, The Bible Triumphant, Pickering, London, 1935, p.36.
59. Childe, V. G., New Light on the Most Ancient East, Kegan Paul, London, 1935, p.2.
60. Perry, W. J., The Growth of Civilization, Pengin Books, England, 1957, p.54.
61. W. E. Taylor in a lecture given before the Orientals Dept. of the University of Toronto, Spring of 1936.

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pottery as crude and yet as never excelled . . . but the fact is that Egypt did not possess a source of clay for good pottery, and thus their best efforts were not comparable to the pottery of other ancient civilizations. Nevertheless, the best they ever made was made at the very beginning.
     Moving northward from Egypt, towards the Cradleland, we come to Palestine and then to Syria. It is fairly certain that those who entered Egypt came either around the Fertile Crescent from Mesopotamia following the natural route which was followed by Abraham, settling first in the Nile Delta towards the sea and then subsequently settling the Upper Nile and Ethiopia, or across Southern Arabia to the Horn of Africa and flooding out across the African continent.
    Although it is not usual to look for the origins of culture in Palestine, it will be valuable in passing to note a remark by M. G. Kyle with respect to the pre-Israelite times, when the country was possessed by the Canaanites and the Philistines and other tribes mentioned in the early chapters of Genesis. He said:
(62)

     Wherever it has been possible to institute a comparison between Palestine and Egypt, the Canaanite civilization in handicraft, art, engineering, architecture, and education has been found to suffer only by that which climate, materials, and locality impose. In genius and in practical execution it is equal to that of Egypt and only eclipsed, before Graeco-Roman times, by the brief glory of the period of Solomon.

     To the north lay Syria. The recent excavations at Ras Shamra and more especially at Tell Halaf have revealed much of the wealth and culture of the very earliest periods. This is particularly and, for our purposes, significantly true of the very earliest period at Tell Halaf. T. J. Meek in discussing the achievements reached by the people who occupied the site at the very beginning remarked: (63)

      Tell Halaf has revealed the most wonderful hand-made pottery ever found. Although the lowest strata here are probably representatives of the oldest culture so far definitely attested, yet it is already clearly chalcolithic. From various indications we know that metal was used, although not very extensively. In this period great skill was shown in the working of obsidian into knives and scrapers...The pottery of Tell Halaf was made by hand, unbelievably thin, indeed not thicker than two playing cards, and shows an extraordinary grasp of shape and decorative effect in color and design. The pottery was fired at great heat in closed kilns that permitted indirect firing with controlled temperatures. The result of the intense heat was the fusion and vitrification of the silicates in the paint so that it  

62. Kyle, M. G., "Recent Testimony of Archaeology to the Scriptures," in The Fundamentals, Biola Press, Los Angeles, 1917, p.329.
63. Meek, T. J., "Mesopotamian Studies," in The Haverford Symposium on Archaeology and the Bible, 1938, p.161.

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became a genuine glaze that gives the surface a porcelain finish quite different from the gloss of burnished ware so common later.
     Technically and artistically the Tell Halaf pottery is the finest handmade pottery of antiquity and bears witness to the high culture of its makers.

     Mallowan said of the use of metal at this early period, "It should be noted that in one of the oldest strata in which Tell Halaf pottery occurs, a copper necklace-bead has been found." (64)
     The people who came to Tell Halaf and thus began the civilization of Syria and Palestine, evidently arrived from two directions. Some seem to have come from the north, from Anatolia, and possibly some from Mesopotamia due east, i.e., from northern Babylonia. We must look further to the east, therefore, for the roots we are seeking.
     Turning to the Mesopotamian plains, the story is exactly similar to the story of Egypt. The greatness of Egypt is monumental. The greatness of Sumerian civilization is of a different nature. Despite the fact that they had no stone with which to erect memorials of their culture as Egypt erected theirs, yet once the search had begun it became increasingly apparent that not only was Sumerian civilization equal in every respect to that of Egypt, it was prior. The earliest culture of the long series which culminated in the great cities like Nineveh and Babylon is termed the Al Ubeid Culture. Of these people Vere Gordon Childe wrote:
(65)

     The authors of the Al Ubeid culture cannot have sprung from the marsh bottom, yet the culture itself shows no sign of having developed locally from any more primitive Mesolithic forerunner.

     C. J. Gadd remarked: (66)

      The Sumerians possessed the land since as far back in time as anything at all is seen or even obscurely divided, and it has already been remarked that their own legends which profess to go back to the creation of the world and of men, have their setting in no other land than their historical home. . . .  But the shapes of the earliest flints are not those of a pure stone age, nor has any certain evidence been found in Iraq of a population so primitive as to have no knowledge of metal.

     And again, subsequently, he said: (67)

     Works of art which astonish by their beauty have been found (not least at Ur itself) to be the relics of the first, not the last ages. Nothing but the good fortune that they were discovered by regular

64. Mallowan, M. E. L., The Excavations at Tell Chagar Bazar and an Archaeological Survey of the Habur Region, 1934-35, Oxford, 1936, reviewed in Antiquity, Dec., 1937, p.502.
65. Childe, V. G., ref.55, p.145.
66. Gadd, C. J., The History and Monuments of Ur, Chatto and Windus, London, 1929, p.24 and p.17.
67. Ibid., p.27.

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excavation could have avoided the ludicrous misconception of their date. . . .  Gold is the material of their possessions and the symbol of their superfluity. In the flourishing days and at their lavish court, the arts of manufacture rose to a perfection and beauty in their products which was never seen again. The articles made were, indeed, of much the same kind as those of later ages, but they were at this very early period marked by a richness and splendor rather of Egyptian sumptuousness than the supposed sobriety of the River-lands. These deposits amaze by their riot of gold: silver also is there in great profusion evidently nothing accounted of.

      Sir Leonard Woolley (68) came to the conclusion that "so far as we know, the fourth millennium before Christ saw Sumerian art at its zenith." And Childe likewise remarked upon the same phenomenon, (69) "These (recent discoveries) suffice to show that, even more than in Egypt, civilization has reached a very high level by the end of the fourth millennium B.C., that was not surpassed during the whole of the pre-Sargonid epoch." And Wiseman pointed out: (70)

     This discovery is the very opposite to that anticipated. It was expected that the more ancient the period the more primitive would excavators find it to be, until traces of civilization ceased altogether and aboriginal man appeared. Neither in Babylonia, nor Egypt, the lands of the oldest known habitations of man, has this been the case. In this connection Dr. Hall writes in his History of the Near East, "When civilization appears it is already full grown." And subsequently, "Sumerian culture springs into being ready made." And Dr. L. W. King in his book Sumer and Akhad remarks, "Although the earliest Sumerian settlements in southern Babylonia are to be set back in a comparatively remote past, the race by which they were founded appears at that time to have already attained to a high level of culture."
     Yet it is not possible to push back the habitation of man in the Mesopotamian plain vast millennia into the past, for the very simple and conclusive reason that the more southern Mesopotamian land must have been formed within the last 10,000 years or so. We know that owing to the peculiar nature of the rivers in bringing down silt, and depositing it at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, the land has been formed gradually during the past few thousand years, and the land is still being added to by this means. Ur of the Chaldees was once on the edge of the Persian Gulf, and is now over one hundred miles from it.

     J. L. Myers pointed out that the shore line has been advancing rapidly within historic times: Eridu, for example, which was a chief port of early Babylonia, lies now 125 miles from the sea. (71) If the present rate of advance, about a mile in thirty years, may be taken

68. Woolley, Sir Leonard, The Sumerians, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1928, p.44.
69. Childe, V. G., New Light on the Most Ancient East, Kegan Paul, London, 1935, p.19.
70. Wiseman, P. J., New Discoveries in Babylon About Genesis, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, 2nd edition, revised, undated, pp.28 and 29.
71. Myers, J. L., Dawn of History, Williams and Norgate, London, undated, p.85.

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as an average, Eridu may have begun to be mud-bound about 1800 B.C.
     T. J. Meek in a lecture given at the University of Toronto stated that "the Sumerian culture springs into view ready made, and there is yet no knowledge of the Sumerians as savages: when we find them in the fourth millennium B.C. they are already civilized highly. They are already using metals and living in great and prosperous cities."
(72) Citizens stamped their correspondence with cylinder seals that were rolled over the soft clay. Such seals were beautifully carved in the very ancient times with animal figures that portray motion. The later seals, even those of only a few centuries later, are vastly inferior from an artistic point of view. Inspiration belonged to the earliest ages, not to the later. (73) When compared with their present descendants, if brain size means anything, according to Sir Arthur Keith even in this they were superior. (74)
     Now the record of Genesis tells us that those who first settled in Mesopotamia entered the land "as they journeyed from the East." This implies that they did not originate there; and since this piece of historical information is presented to us some time after the Ark had landed, and after men had begun to spread abroad somewhat, it seems fairly certain that these people had come down on the eastern side of the Zagros Mountains towards the site of Susa. Here they effected a settlement before going on towards the west and there "finding" a plain, the plain of Mesopotamia. Susa thus stands in a parental or at least a prior relationship to the Al Ubaid culture exactly as the excavations show. We ought in theory to be one step nearer the beginning when we have arrived back at Susa.
     Yet even here, the story is repeated. H. G. Spearing wrote of Susa:
(75)

     The earliest colonists at Susa were well civilized before they left the country of their parenthood and arrived there. For in their burial ground outside the city walls are found the bronze hatchets of the men and the mirrors and needles and the ointment vases of the women; there are also relics of delicate fabrics finely woven on a loom. . . .
     The pottery is wonderfully thin and hard, not much thicker than a couple of post cards, and it rings like porcelain, though it is not so

72. Meek, T. J., in a lecture before the Orientals Dept., University of Toronto, Fall of 1936.
73. Frankfort, Henri, in an article on Khafaje in the Illustrated London News, Nov. 13, 1937, pp.840, 841, gives some photos of such seals.
74. Keith, Sir Arthur, "Physical Anthropology," Science Progress, Oct., 1936, p.333.
75. Spearing, H. G., "Susa, The Eternal City of the East," in Wonders of the Past, vol. 3, Putnam, New York, 1924, p.583.

     pg.13 of 22     

transparent. The forms are simple and graceful; they were produced on a rudimentary pottery wheel used with a skill that looks like the inherited experience of many generations of craftsmen.
     Nearly all the bowls and vases were elaborately decorated either inside or outside with strange designs, most of which have no similarity with other designs found in other parts of the world, so that we have no clue to the country where these potters learned their art, though we can be fairly sure that they brought it from some center of civilization where it had been undergoing a long period of development.

How inevitable this conclusion always seems to be!
     Where shall we look now for the origins of the people who created this pottery? It seems we cannot look further to the east, though in this direction lies the Indus Valley Civilization. But this culture owes its origin to a people who themselves manifestly came from the west, and who shared much with the creators of the Sumerian culture. Nevertheless, the earliest levels at two sites, Changu Daru and Harappa in the Indus Valley, are remarkably reminiscent of the earliest levels at Tell Halaf in Syria, and in keeping with the fact that the Tell Halaf settlers arrived there from the north and east towards Ararat, it is clear that the Indus Valley people came from somewhere in the same direction. Thus Ernest Mackay
(76) said, "There seems no doubt that . . .we must look to the Iranian Highlands for the region whence civilization was brought to India."
     In his report to the Illustrated London News, Mackay remarks upon the finds at the earliest levels in Changu Daru,
(77) and describes the extraordinary way in which the city was laid out in blocks with draining systems and underground sewers. Some of the drain pipes are illustrated in his article and he remarks of them that they "are quite modern in design . . . some having spigots which fit into each other, and some conical shaped so that the smaller end fits into the larger end of the next one."
     He tells of a hoard of beads found.
(78)

     Some of the beads made of steatite were astonishingly small; a quantity had been kept for safety in a small jar, and when placed end to end they ran to 34 to an inch. Their holes were so tiny that they could only have been threaded on a hair, and how these beads were made and bored it is hard to comprehend. . . .
     As at Mohenjo Daro (another Indus Valley site) practically every house had its bathroom and latrine from which the water ran into the street drains and was thus carried well outside the city. Indeed, the draining system was remarkably well planned, every street being supplied with two or more drains, built, like the houses, of burnt brick. A number of pottery drain pipes, some of which were found in situ,

76. Mackay, Ernest, "Great New Discoveries of Indian Culture in Prehistoric Sind," Illustrated London News, Nov. 14, 1936, Plate I.
77. Ibid., p.860, Fig.II.
78. Ibid., pp.860 and 894.
 

     pg.14 of 22     


testify that these ancient people were expert sanitary engineers; moreover, falls were arranged so that there should be as little splashing as possible, and when a corner had to be turned the bricks were carefully rounded off to reduce friction. The drain pipes are quite modern in design; except for being made of porous pottery, they would well serve the same purpose today.

     As a matter of fact, anyone who has had experience with a septic tank disposal system will know that in reality this porosity was a great advantage, for much of the content of the system is bled through the pipe walls into the surrounding soil, thus relieving the load at the disposal end.
     Some remarkable seal amulets were also found at the lowest levels, with illustrations of elephants, oxen, and single-horned Urus ox. These seals are beautifully carved, with almost perfectly formed reproductions of the animals they portray, showing absolutely correct proportion and musculature. Copper and bronze instruments and weapons abound everywhere.
     How well such sanitation and such household furnishings contrast with the modern eastern villages whose inhabitants have the unpleasant habit of casting all refuse into the street for the rain to wash away. But where did these people come from? Dr. Mackay says we must look towards the Iranian highland plateau. Wherever they came from, it seems they entered the Indus Valley already cultured. It is amazing to find at two of the earliest sites, Harappa and Changu Daru, evidence of such artistic taste and skill, coupled with a remarkable engineering knowledge.
     At Mohenjo Daru, another site in the same complex, was found a male dancing figure and the torso of a nude female figure which, according to Childe,
(79) are "modelled with a liveliness of attitude, and the musculature and contours of the bodies delineated with an attention to detail and verisimilitude, found nowhere else before classical Greek times. Indeed so modern is the treatment that the sculptures have been attributed to the Greco-Bactrian age." Their artistic taste was no less highly developed than their technology.
     But if these settlers came from the highland zone surely we ought to find their remains there? It seems that the site of Sialk is such a village. Excavation of this site was undertaken by a French expedition from the Louvre Museum, beginning in 1933 and working continuously till 1938, and with further work in the area since World War II. In charge of the expedition was R. Ghirshman who has reported his

79. Childe, Vere Gordon, "India and the West Before Darius," Antiquity, Mar., 1939, p.10.

     pg.15 of 22     


work in numerous journals and recently given a very comprehensive account in a volume entitled "Iran." (80)
     In this, and in earlier papers, he set forth some of his findings as follows. The site is quite near the famous city of Kashan known for its rugs, and not far south of Teheran the capital of Iran. It was first occupied in the fifth millennium B.C., at which time the evidence shows that the climate of the region was just changing from a very wet one to an arid one. The central part of the Iranian highland plateau had apparently escaped the glaciation which had engulfed the rest of Europe but had been experiencing a very, very heavy rainfall, and this had led to the formation of "an immense lake or inland sea" into which many rivers ran from the high mountains. As this large, but shallow, inland sea dried up it left in its place many swamps which became grassland and savannah. Game was abundant and man "moved in first to hunt and then to settle permanently." He had, by this time, already domesticated certain species such as the ox and the goat.
     Ghirshman also found that the occupants were highly artistic. To use his own words:
(81)

     Never before in the systematic explorations which have brought to light the remains of extinct civilizations have such objects carved out of bone or of stone been found in this region. The Sialk excavations have now revealed the existence of a marvelous art of carving on bone, which had already made noteworthy progress at the period we are now considering. Among the remains of the dwellings, we found recently a whole series of flint holders, with handles finished off with an animal head or a carved human figure. . . .
     The figurine which decorates the handle of one of these tools may be regarded as the oldest carved human image ever found in Western Asia. The statuette, which perhaps represents a chief or a priest, has a little cap on its head; round the hips is a loin-cloth, the upper part of which is rolled under to form a sort of belt. The arms of the figure are crossed, and the torso is slightly bent forward.
     It is not possible to believe that an art capable of creating such an object as this statuette was in its initial phase. The artist reveals awareness both of proportions and of technical approach. The way in which the attitude of the man is treated, his muscles, his clothing, show close observation, and also much practice and skill. . . .

     The inhabitants soon domesticated also pigs, dogs and the horse, this being the first evidence of the existence of the latter in Iran at such a remote period. Vere Gordon Childe remarked on the surprising fact that at the earliest levels the inhabitants were also spinning and weaving to make fabrics, though the fibers they used have not yet 

80. Ghirshman, R., Iran, Penguin Books, Eng., 1954, 368 pp., Index, illustrations.
81. Ghirshman, R., "At Sialk: Prehistoric Iran," Asia, Nov., 1938, p.646.

     pg.16 of 22     


been identified for certain. (82) Ghirshman also referred to the earliest known records in the form of simple tablets which were clearly to be related with the earliest tablets found by a French expedition in the lowest levels of Susa - thus establishing what he considers a direct ancestral link from the north to the south.
     It seems therefore that Sialk represents a settlement made by the people who, travelling further towards the south, established themselves at Susa some little time later. But Ghirshman would go one step further, for he views the people of Sialk as being related also to the Indo-European civilization, and to that of the Phrygians of Asia Minor, a people of the Indo-European race closely related to the Illyrians who immigrated there from Thrace, which "entitles us to regard the inhabitants of Sialk as belonging also to the same Indo-European family."
(83) It is only to be expected that there should be evidence at this early time of the close association of all three of the sons of Noah. It would almost seem as though they were still together at this time, though doubtless their families had greatly enlarged. But shortly afterwards they began to divide. The children of Japheth went towards the north and settled up into Asia Minor and into Europe. The children of Ham went south and coming into the Indus Valley established themselves there. But they also went via Susa round into Mesopotamia arriving at the southern end soon afterwards to establish the Al Ubeid culture. Perhaps the children of Shem went towards the west and then down into northern Syria, settled at Tell Halaf and later turned towards the east again and to northern Mesopotamia where in the time of Nimrod they fell under the domination of the Sumerians from the south.
     In speaking of Sialk, Childe is careful to note how quickly the people who occupied it moved forward in their civilization. He wrote:
(84)

     The earliest culture found at Sialk can be matched at other sites upon the plateau and northward up to Anau in the Merv oasis in Russian Turkestan [the route followed by the children of Japheth?]. At Sialk a second phase can be seen in the villages built on the ruins of those described. The houses are no longer built just of packed clay, but of molded bricks dried in the sun. Food-gathering is less prominent in the communal economy: horses have been added to the domestic flock. Shells are brought across the mountains from the Persian Gulf. Copper is commoner, but it is still treated as a superior sort of stone, 

82. Childe, Vere Gordon, What Happened In History, Penguin Books, Eng., 1946, p.64.
83. V. G. Childe also refers to the evidence for the existence of a Japhetic people dwelling in early times in the highlands from the Zagros Mountains westward (New Light on the Most Ancient East, Kegan Paul, London, 1935, p.18).
84. V. G. Childe, What Happened In History, Penguin Books, Eng., 1946, p.64.

     pg.17 of 22     


worked by cold hammering. Equipment is made from local bone, stone and chert, supplemented by a little imported obsidian. But special kilns are built for firing pots.
     Then with Sialk III the village was removed to a new site close by the old one and watered by the same spring. Equipment is still mainly home-made from local materials. But copper is worked intelligently by casting to make axes and other implements that must still be luxuries. Gold and silver are imported, and lapis lazuli from northern Afghanistan. Potters appear who make vessels quickly on a fast spinning wheel, instead of building them up by hand. And men use seals to mark their property. Finally Sialk IV is a colony of literate Elamites. . . .

     In other words, life at the very beginning in these places was necessarily simple, but it seems that it was not only technically proficient it was also artistic and therefore cultured. And it developed extremely rapidly.
     From Sialk it is now customary to go back to the lower levels at Jarmo and to other sites in Iraqi Kurdistan which appear to represent an earlier stage, a stage without pottery (roughly contemporary with and similar to the lowest levels of Jericho even though it was already a fortified town by this time).
(85) But can we really be sure that such sites are prior merely because there is no evidence of pottery? Is this not a biased interpretation? There is really no absolute reason for placing these cultures "earlier" other than the argument that they ought to be earlier merely because they appear to be simpler. The supposed law of evolutionary development may demand this interpretation, but in itself the evidence is quite neutral, until something turns up which positively established priority.
     When Noah and his family stepped out of the Ark somewhere in this general region, they certainly must have had a knowledge of metals, for by this time metal-working was already centuries old (Genesis 4: 22).
     Now, it is argued that sites without pottery in this area must be earlier. The criterion is the absence of pottery. However, it is known from other sites, especially in Greece,
(86) that the use of metals can precede the use of pottery, pottery vessels being subsequently based upon metal prototypes. In such sites, although the metal originals have disappeared, they must have existed in order to give rise to what are manifestly substitutes. It follows from this that in those periods 

85. For a useful summary of these associations and time correlations, see Seton Lloyd, Early Anatolia, Penguin Books, Eng., 956, pp.54.
86. Excellent illustrations of such pottery will be found in E. J. Forsdyke, "Marvels of the Potter's Art," in Wonders of the Past, vol. 2, Putnam, New York, 1924, Plate at p.426. Such forms occur widely in early Heliadic sites as at Asea, Gournia, Korakou, Vasiliki, etc. Even the rivets are sometimes reproduced in pottery!

     pg.18 of 22     


when vessels were commonly made from metal, there may have been an absence of pottery, and this absence would be evidence, not of a lower level of technology, but rather of a higher one. Thus the reason why Jarmo and the lower levels of Jericho are considered to be more primitive, i.e., the absence of pottery, may be quite unsound. In fact, when pottery does finally appear in these sites, it takes a form which could easily be the result of inspiration derived from the use of metal wares. The fact that no metal wares were found at these lower levels is not too significant for the simple reason that such vessels would not be easily broken and would not be thrown away. The point of this discussion is simply that those sites which by reason of their lower culture are considered to be antecedent, may actually be later: they may be, in fact, settlements established by the first offshoots from the main body on the highland plateau.
     Thus although Jarmo and early Jericho are assumed to be older than Sialk, I do not think the point is established. Possibly they were, but the assumption rests, as stated above, on the lower level of cultural development as gauged by what was left behind by the inhabitants. The dating for Jarmo established by Braidwood is in any case not so very ancient. He gives the figure 6000 B.C., but adds that this date is likely to be reduced, when the evidence is more fully assessed.
(87) Jericho is dated by Kenyon at 8000 B.C., (88) but Zeuner who was chiefly responsible for the investigations on which the figures were based states "most emphatically" that caution is needed in accepting these C-14 dates. (89)
     Such then is the picture. Somewhere in the Iranian highland there settled a small group of people who needed little time to develop sufficiently to create the later culture-complex which characterized the upper levels at Sialk. From here, or from some similar sites in about the same stages of development, emigrants set out towards the West to settle at Tell Halaf, for example. Others went south, dividing into two bands, one passing around the lower end of the Zagros Mountains where they came up into the plains of Mesopotamia from 

87. Braidwood, Robert J., "From Cave to Village," Scientific American, Oct., 1952, pp.62 ff. This is an excellent summary with useful illustrations and graphic presentations of the evidence as he sees it. To the uninitiated, the matter is clearly settled. But Miss Kenyon disagrees.
88. Kenyon, Kathleen M., "Ancient Jericho," Scientific American, Apr., 1954, pp. 76. In her article, "Some Observations on the Beginnings of Settlement in the Near East," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Jan.- June, 1959, pp.35 ff., she explains why she believes Jericho is older than Jarmo and criticizes Braidwood's interpretation of the Archaeological evidence from Jarmo -- which shows how difficult it is to be certain about sequences at this early date.
89. Kenyon, Kathleen, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Jan.- June, 1959, p.41.

     pg. 19 of 22     


the south, and the other turning to the east, finally establishing themselves in the Indus Valley.
     From Mesopotamia and Northern Syria it seems, more adventurous spirits travelled on until they reached Lower and Upper Egypt; and all this took place within a remarkably short time.
(90)
     This is manifestly a gross over-simplification, for some of the settlers, in lower Mesopotamia, subsequently travelled around the southern boundary of Arabia and entered Africa via the Horn. And the Japhetic branch of the family of Noah quite possibly spread at a much more leisurely pace toward the north (into the Caucasus) and towards the west (into Asia Minor and on into Greece and Europe), only much later returning towards the south and east into Persia and into the Indus Valley. Yet even though this reconstruction is artificial in its simplicity, the time factor is not likely to be changed very much. The tendency has been, rather consistently, to reduce rather than to extend the over-all chronology.
(91)
     All the initial movements seem to have taken place within a period of about 1,000 to 1,500 years, showing how quickly the transition was made to the cultural level at Al Ubeid, for example. And while Al Ubeid stands at the beginning of Sumerian civilization, within a few hundred years the Sumerians had achieved a level of technical proficiency greater than that to be found in many parts of Europe just prior to the Industrial Revolution.

90. A very stimulating and concise evaluation of the evidence for these early migrations was given by M. E. L. Mallowan in "Mesopotamian Trilogy," Antiquity, June, 1939, pp.159-170.
91. In discussing one of the papers presented at the Anthropological Symposium (ref.29), Grahame Clark made the remark regarding new techniques of dating, "They seem to suggest that the Magdalenian cave artists, far from ending at 18,000 B.C., probably ended at more like 8,000 B.C., and far from beginning anywhere near so early as 50,000 B.C., began about 15,000 B.C., or perhaps even later. I conclude by asking a question which I hope Hallam Movius (see ref.18) will take up. If the only date in the Zeuner-Milankovitch system (on which ref.92 is based) we are in a position to check by means of C-14 is found to be as badly wrong and as grossly over-inflated as this, how much reliance should we place on the long-range dating for the early phases of the ice age? I only ask this question. I don't know the answer" (Appraisal of Anthropology Today, Chicago, 1953, p.78). On this see also, Oakley, Man, Oct., 1951, p.142. The same authority said subsequently (p.37), "C-14 dating seems to suggest that the Upper Paleolithic developments came rather later than we thought, and this only heightens the impression of a very great speed-up in cultural development and differentiation."
  A. L. Kroeber (p.39) strongly reinforced Clark's words, underlining the change in view regarding both Old and New World chronology. In the Illustrated London News, Sept. 14, 1935, Henry Frankfort suggests that "the earliest periods of civilization in Mesopotamia are more closely related and extend over a shorter period of time than is generally assumed." 

     pg.20 of 22     


     One is inevitably faced with the question of what had been happening in the rest of the world that progress had been so fantastically slow, if it really had occupied a time of some quarter to half a million years to reach the lowest levels at Sialk. Such a long period with so little progress is almost impossible to conceive of, especially when one realizes that the art of the European caves attributed to Cro-Magnon Man was according to Zeuner in the process of development some 72,000 years ago. (92) In fact he admitted his own amazement at the slowness of development in some cases. Thus in speaking of cultures during the Last Interglacial he wrote: (93)

     The interesting feature of this evolution of the hand-ax industries is the small amount of change observed, notwithstanding the huge time span covered. Judged by the standards of, say the upper Paleolithic, the evolutionary rates of the Crag "industries" and of the Abbevillian, covering about 60 thousand years each, are small; but smaller yet is that of the Acheulian which lasted through 300 thousand years of which something like 200 thousand years appear to have been occupied by the "middle stage." This conservatism of the Acheulian is one of the most striking phenomena in the chronology of the Paleolithic.

     It is strange indeed. Observe the sequence: for perhaps a quarter of a million years intelligent men, to all intents and purposes apparently much like ourselves in many respects, advanced their culture scarcely at all. Then appeared a settlement in the Iranian highlands near the traditional site of the landing of the Ark, which within a period of perhaps 1,500 years developed into a culture in the Mesopotamian plains, which in turn, within a thousand years, gave rise to a series of high cultures scarcely paralleled until comparatively modern times. (94) And finally, after this sudden burst of activity lasting possibly a further 1,500 years or so, which witnessed some of the finest cultural achievements in Babylonia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley which the Middle East has ever seen, the process was once more slowed up until many prosperous centres decayed and disappeared, and much of India, Africa, and Europe remained in a state of semi-barbarism till 

92. Zeuner, F. E.. Dating the Past, Methuen, 1958, p.299, fig.81.
93. Ibid., pp.285 and 288.
94. We now have a new "twist" in the interpretation of the evidence. The fact that there is no paleolithic phase in the Middle East cannot, of course, be taken to mean that man was civilized almost as soon as he appeared. This is not "evolutionary thinking." So it must be assumed that the absence of the earlier phase is due to the fact that it never was the Cradle of Mankind -- never was a centre of hominid dispersion. The fact that all lines of migration lead back here is simply discounted, and the evidence is completely re-interpreted to support current assumptions. See F. Clark Howell, "The Villafranchian and Human Origins," Science, vol.130, 1959, p.833, col. c.

      pg.21 of 22      


well on toward Roman times, and in some instances till much later The sequence takes the form, then, of an unbelievably long time with almost no growth; a sudden spurt leading within a very few centuries to a remarkably high culture; a gradual slowing up, and decay, followed only much later by recovery of lost arts and by development of new ones leading ultimately to the creation of our modern world. What was the agency which operated for that short period of time to so greatly accelerate the process of cultural development and produce such remarkable results? And is the long prior period of slow "progress" merely a figment of imaginative thinking resulting from a mistaken interpretation of the facts? Is it possible to account for Paleolithic man in some other way? Could he have been descended from rather than ancestral to the people who so quickly created the cultures of the traditional Cradle of Civilization?
     I think this is so. The sudden rise of high culture in the Middle East is most readily accounted for by reference to certain explicit statements in the early chapters of Genesis, and to some reasonable implications based upon them. And further, I am convinced that one can only account for the extraordinary slowness of early cultural development in Europe and elsewhere by reviewing those cultures in the light of what we actually know from the history of primitive societies since the White Man first made contact with them and began to record his observations about them. 

     pg. 22 of 22     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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